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How to talk to your child about the death of the Queen

This blog post is one that I never expected to be writing – of course, I never thought that the Queen would live forever. But even though I knew this intellectually, I had not thought about it as a reality.

The news has come as a shock to my family. We are not particularly royalist or the opposite, but the resulting change in tv and radio content, the news broadcasts which are understandably full of this subject, and the potential for disrupted or changed routines around bank holidays and school days has left our daughter feeling unsettled.

For me, personally, all the focus on tributes and remembrance has brought back emotions of losing my grandparents nearly 15 years ago. I never knew the Queen, obviously, but the death of an elderly person is always linked in my brain somehow to my own personal bereavement experience – possibly this is autistic empathy at its finest. My daughter is feeling sad as she liked the idea of a queen (she wanted the royal succession to skip to Princess Charlotte so that we could continue to have a girl on the throne!) as well as feeling sad about an important old lady dying.

This is quite a brief post but I wanted to share some resources that might help your girl to understand what has happened:

Resources to help to explain death to your child

So I thought that we would think first perhaps about explaining death to your child.

  • I have found this article on the Marie Curie website very helpful. It is not autism-specific, but has some good advice.

  • There is also a very good page on the National Autistic Society website about grief and autism. It has some useful links at the bottom to other sources of support, should you feel they would be useful.

Resources to help to explain about the Queen’s death

The Newsround website has been very good at breaking down the news into understandable chunks for children. Today there is a lot of information on the Newsround homepage about the Queen and her life. As the homepage will be updated at some point, here is the link to the main article explaining about her life.

Resources to help your child to cope with change

The start of the academic year is a time of change in any case. The extra changes that have been brought by the Queen’s death may be unsettling for your child. We have already found this morning that every radio station that we tune into on the way to school was playing sombre music and talking non-stop about the Queen and people’s memories of her life.

Whilst some may prefer to talk non-stop about it, for others it may be a constant reminder that change is occurring and it may not be easy to adapt. Tv scheduling may well be very different for a few days, and sports fixtures have been called off. If your child has routines that involve live tv, radio or sport, then this may be difficult for them to understand and they might find it difficult to cope without these familiar rituals.

It’s also worth keeping an eye out for whether or not your child’s school will close for an extra day or two, and when the state funeral will be taking place, so that you can prepare your child for these routine changes in advance.

  • Although not specific to this situation, the National Autistic Society has a guide to dealing with change that might be useful.

  • There’s a good article by an autistic adult on the Autisphere – with some helpful tips.

How your child may process the situation

Finally, remember that not all of us process emotional upheaval in the same way or at the same speed. Your child may appear unaffected now and then suddenly appear to be distressed out of the blue. Or they may be very upset and want to talk constantly about the Queen. Or they may appear baffled as to why anyone is upset over an old lady dying who very few people actually knew in person. All of these reactions are perfectly normal, and all need to be given space and understanding.

Laura Webb is a director of NeonDaisy


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